Victim 'kind, caring man'

Teresa Bartz can't believe anyone would want to hurt her brother.

But, on Wednesday, Willie Bartz was found dead in his apartment at Sun Dance Suites.

Police are calling the death suspicious.

“Willie was a very kind person, dearly loved. He never met a stranger. He made friends wherever he went,” said Teresa who, along with her father, Zeke, spoke to Castanet about their loss.

Willie, 50, had lived in Vernon for several years, but it was 27 years ago when his life took a significant turn.

“He was run over by a car in 1989, which gave him brain damage and physical damage to his left side,” said Zeke. “They didn't expect him to live, but he did. He had a really rough time throughout his life. He walked like he was drunk and he was even thrown in jail for it until they (police) realized he was telling them the truth. It was pretty sad. He had a very sad life, but he was loved by everybody he met.”

Tributes have poured in for Willie, who volunteered at the Upper Room Mission and Salvation Army.

Teresa said the accident “affected him like a stroke, and his short-term memory was really bad. Sometimes, you would hear the same joke one or 20 times.

“Even after the accident (he) was very cheerful. He just bounced back. You couldn't keep him down. He was in the hospital for a year after his accident. He was in a coma for three months.”

Because of the accident, Willie was unable to work and couldn't afford luxuries many take for granted, like a phone. So, when Zeke had heart surgery last year, Teresa took to local social media to see if she could locate her brother.

“The response was amazing,” she said. “Everybody was, 'I know Will.' It was amazing how many people knew my brother.”

RCMP have not issued an update on the death.

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